AMA Digital Health Research: Physicians’ Motivations and Key Requirements for Adopting Digital Health Adoption and attitudinal shifts from 2016 to 2022
The AMA survey that originated in 2016, updated in 2019, and again in 2022 tried to determine the degree to which adoption has occurred and identify attitudinal shifts among physicians towards their use and adoption. Some of the key findings included:
- There has been an increase in the percentage of physicians that feel there are advantages in leveraging digital health solutions. The percentage of physicians who feel digital health tools are an advantage for patient care grew from 85% in 2016 to 93% in 2022, and increases were measured across all physicians irrespective of age or specialty.
- Adoption of digital tools has grown significantly among all physicians regardless of gender, specialty, or age. The average number of digital health tools in use by a physician grew from 2.2 in 2016 to 3.8 in 2022.
- Improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency are the top factors influencing physician interest in digital health tools. The ability to help reduce stress and burnout has also gained importance as a key driver of digital tool adoption. Liability coverage remains the most important requirement for physician adoption of digital health tools followed by integration with their EHR and assurances for data privacy.
We reached out to our experts to see what they had to say about the study.
Physicians are realizing that EHRs, when designed correctly, can give them valuable tools, such as relevant information at the point of care that streamlines and enhances patient care and the practice of medicine, while reducing the clinician’s burden of use. To ensure that clinicians embrace emerging technologies, the tools must support the clinician’s workflow and provide assistance at the point they need it, without forcing them to hop around multiple screens. Rather than focusing on replacing medical care, AI solutions should target ways to automate routine and mind-numbing tasks, such as compliance with quality measures and coding compliance.
We are thrilled by the results of the recent AMA study on digital health. We, too, are seeing similar exciting and positive results with our digital health and safety platform. Digital healthcare is only as good as its ability to make a meaningful impact on health outcomes—and just as important—patient engagement. Our Remote Patient Monitoring solution has produced statistically significant improvements in reducing blood pressure and blood glucose among patients with hypertension and weight loss among patients with obesity. As well, using our AI Virtual health assistant, we are able to empower patients to be more informed, educated and proactive about taking their readings and managing their health, and they like it! 96% of patients rated high satisfaction and engagement has climbed by more than 30%. Also, in our recent study, 69% of clinical and provider customers asserted that the technology reduced or greatly reduced the incidence of hospitalizations and other forms of high acuity care for their patients. When done right, digital health technologies have immense power for people and the healthcare community to improve outcomes, reduce cost and ease burden on providers and staff.
Lyle Berkowitz, MD, CEO, KeyCare
It is fantastic to see enthusiasm for telehealth so high, but we need to address the very real problem that having office-based physicians doing virtual visits does not reduce their stress and burnout, since they are simply exchanging a 15-minute office visit with a 15-minute video visit. A better answer is to let office-based physicians (“office-ologists”) focus on doing face-to-face visits with their more complex population, while optimizing technology, reimbursement, and culture for a new type of provider – the “Virtualist” – to do highly efficient, online care for more routine cases. Health systems can then augment their own staff by partnering with a variety of Virtual care groups, ideally that are working on the same EHR platform as the system, thus ensuring a more seamless patient experience, bidirectional data sharing, and a true team-based approach to care.
Our experience working closely with rural hospitals confirms the AMA’s finding that physicians are now ready to use predictive data and shared decision-making tools to achieve the best outcomes for patients. For providers and patients in rural communities, access to care and EMS services, limited bed capacity and long admission wait times continue to be a top concern. Fortunately, digital tools exist to help hospitals quickly choose, initiate, and confirm pending interfacility transfers. Tracking and analyzing patient transfer data can help hospitals ensure safe, efficient transport and streamline the movement of patients within a healthcare ecosystem.
Lynn Carroll, COO, HSBlox
Digital Health tools that can successfully engage patients as active participants in chronic disease management can improve communication and outcomes. As value-based programs continue to expand, meeting patients at home and in the community will become an increasing part of whole-person care — delivering integrated care and financial transparency in a prospective manner.
One in three doctors plan to adopt augmented intelligence in the next 12 months, despite dismal adoption rates today. The current adoption level of 18% may be artificially low, however, because providers don’t realize that some of their current solutions already incorporate AI. While most people think of AI that swings for the fences (such as predicting sepsis and curing cancer), great AI may not be apparent to users. One example is AI which works behind the scenes to make data actionable within EHRs by improving interoperability among different electronic systems. In fact, it can be so seamless that the provider barely notices it. Vendors should strive to achieve that level of integration, and providers should demand it.
The AMA’s study results substantiate what we have believed all along — digital health is the future. When it comes to telehealth/virtual care, our nation’s health systems are best equipped to advance health equity by deploying a robust, internal virtual care channel that spans all service lines. This approach supports efforts to shift higher complexity care to virtual where appropriate and validates a higher E/M code and more procedural conversions by closing the referral loop. We strongly believe that the quality, increased patient satisfaction, and savings for the health system justify a virtual care program that relies heavily on employed providers armed with the right tools and workflows rather than outsourcing virtual care to third-party vendors.
We have a nursing shortage and a healthcare provider shortage, and no one has the workforce to adequately manage a remote patient population. We’ve seen improved clinical outcomes and work efficiency from hospitals and health systems that have adopted digital tools to help keep people safe and well cared for in their homes. And, there is a growing number of people with chronic conditions who don’t need episodic care, but would benefit from staying digitally connected to their providers to manage their health at home. People need support – not just when they are sick, but also when they are trying hard to stay well. Leveraging technology to ‘manage by exception’ ensures no one falls through the cracks.
Providers’ appetite for augmented intelligence will continue to increase as tools already exist to assist them with point-of-service data about a patient’s gaps in care and any unaddressed and uncoded diagnoses. Innovative tools can gather data from all available sources, including data coming from outside the provider’s EHR, providing a more complete view of the patient’s medical history and needs. In addition, data can be transformed into powerful insights that drive care management algorithms to identify patients who are actionable for care interventions resulting in fewer ED visits, hospitalizations and a reduction in unnecessary medical utilization.
Escalating physician adoption rates of digital health solutions suggest the value of these tools is impacting the way care is being delivered. Health systems are leveraging virtual care platforms for data collection, care redesign and resource management, especially in light of the massive clinical workforce burnout rates. Configurable, interoperable platforms can create a scaffolding that digitizes provider workflows and enables greater efficiency. Digital therapeutics, care management, and remote patient monitoring tools can provide clinically validated education to patients at home, while giving clinicians the insights they need to track patient progress, manage by exception, and provide quality care to a greater number of patients at once.
The universal adoption of EHRs promised to reduce the burden on physicians, but instead we became responsible for an ever-increasing number of clerical tasks that took us away from our patients. It’s no surprise that 93% of physicians are looking to take advantage of digital solutions that, when designed with physicians in mind, have the power to simultaneously reduce manual work while improving patient outcomes. By combining EHR data, third-party claims data sets, machine learning models, and patient-generated health data, we can create clever, sophisticated automations that free physicians from some of the most mundane aspects of care delivery — enabling us to finally restore our focus on the patient.
The AMA study shows that across the board physicians are adopting digital health. It’s not just telemedicine use by physicians which grew from 28% adoption to 80% between 2019-2022, but also the number of digital health tools used which doubled from 2.4 to 3.8 which included things like remote monitoring, clinical decision support, and point of care workflow. Finally, it’s now a very small monitoring of physicians only 8% of physicians, who believe there are not advantages to leverage digital tools for patient care. While digital health adoption has been spotty over the past decade, it’s clear sentiment has changed, and things are starting to accelerate from a physician point of view.